Instead of focusing on psychopathology and what goes wrong with people, Abraham Maslow formulated a more positive account of human behaviour which focused on what goes right. He was interested in human potential, and how we fulfill that potential.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow (1943, 1954) stated that human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth. Self-actualized people as those who were fulfilled and doing all they were capable of.
The growth of self-actualization (Maslow, 1962) refers to the need for personal growth that is present throughout a person’s life. For Maslow, a person is always “becoming” and never remains static in these terms. In self-actualization a person comes to find a meaning to life that is important to them.
As each person is unique the motivation for self-actualization leads people in different directions (Kenrick et al., 2010). For some people self-actualization can be achieved through creating works of art or literature, for others through sport, in the classroom, or within a corporate setting.
It is important to note that self-actualization is a continual process of becoming rather than a perfect state one reaches of a ‘happy ever after’ (Hoffman, 1988).
Maslow offers the following description of self-actualization:
‘It refers to the person’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially.
The specific form that these needs will take will of course vary greatly from person to person. In one individual it may take the form of the desire to be an ideal mother, in another it may be expressed athletically, and in still another it may be expressed in painting pictures or in inventions’. (Maslow, 1943, p. 382–383).
Are you self-actualized?
Maslow (1968): Some of the characteristics of self-actualized people
Although we are all, theoretically, capable of self-actualizing, most of us will not do so, or only to a limited degree. Maslow (1970) estimated that only two percent of people will reach the state of self actualization. He was particularly interested in the characteristics of people whom he considered to have achieved their potential as persons.
By studying 18 people he considered to be self-actualized (including Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein) Maslow (1970) identified 15 characteristics of a self-actualized person.
Characteristics of self-actualizers:
1. They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty;
2. Accept themselves and others for what they are;
3. Spontaneous in thought and action;
4. Problem-centred (not self-centred);
5. Unusual sense of humour;
6. Able to look at life objectively;
7. Highly creative;
8. Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional;
9. Concerned for the welfare of humanity;
10. Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience;
11. Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people;
12. Peak experiences;
13. Need for privacy;
14. Democratic attitudes;
15. Strong moral/ethical standards.
Behaviour leading to self-actualization:
(a) Experiencing life like a child, with full absorption and concentration;
(b) Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths;
(c) Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority or the majority;
(d) Avoiding pretence (‘game playing’) and being honest;
(e) Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority;
(f) Taking responsibility and working hard;
(g) Trying to identify your defences and having the courage to give them up.
The characteristics of self-actualizers and the behaviours leading to self-actualization are shown in the list above. Although people achieve self-actualization in their own unique way, they tend to share certain characteristics. However, self-actualization is a matter of degree, ‘There are no perfect human beings’ (Maslow,1970a, p. 176).
It is not necessary to display all 15 characteristics to become self-actualized, and not only self-actualized people will display them. Maslow did not equate self-actualization with perfection. Self-actualization merely involves achieving ones potential. Thus someone can be silly, wasteful, vain and impolite, and still self-actualize. Less than two percent of the population achieve self-actualization.
Shared by Krissy Gee